Help, I'm being held prisoner in a security camera testing factory. So please read this...

Reg vulture gets its claws on Reolink's Argus 2


Steps

Once you are in the app and watching the stream, you can then save a video or a picture – but it requires you not only starting the stream with one tap but also taking that picture/starting the video with another tap.

This may not sound like much but the truth is that no one is constantly fixated on their security camera feed so it can be the difference between a useful camera and a frustrating one.

By comparison the Nest Outdoor camera is constantly recording and lets you instantly jump back and forward in time. It also requires far fewer direct interventions.

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A second big compromise is in the quality overall – we mentioned to camera and the screws – but one issue was the microphone and speaker. The sound is ok, but not great. And it is too quiet. It will work fine in a slightly confined space – in a corner for example – but in open space, it gets lost. (It's worth noting that Nest also got this wrong with its first iteration of its outside camera – the latest version is significantly louder, which also makes the camera itself bigger.)

We were also not that impressed with the motion detection. It works if there is a fairly big object moving quite close to the camera, but it's not great from a distance, and it doesn't pick up smaller things like cats. It also occasionally got confused by sunlight and we had quite a few random motion alerts that we suspect were caused by shadows. Likewise, the infra-red night vision is just ok, and falls off with distance.

And the third big compromise – which is the biggest of all – is the software, both the app and behind the scenes.

The Reolink app works, don't get us wrong. It works and it has pretty much everything you need. It is also pretty stable. Only twice have the camera and app failed to communicate and given an error message – which is annoying but not terrible.

Budget

The problem is that the app is clunky. It feels like a budget version. Which is a shame because so much of your experience of using the camera is through the app. The company really needs to pay as much attention to this as to the camera itself.

The bigger issue with the back-end software is that isn't really any. The one big reason why Nest continues to be our favorite camera is because of its cloud-based storage system. Not only does it record everything but also analyses it in real time.

That enables you to define difference zones of activity and apply different alerts to each. And it can do face recognition (though not as well as you would hope). Now the big, big difference is that Nest charges a monthly fee for that service. But it really does make the difference between feeling like a smart cameras is a worthwhile, ongoing investment, and wondering what the points is of having a security camera anyway.

None of that is to say that the Argus 2 is a bad camera; it isn't. In fact, it is a pretty good camera, especially for the price. If you'd have told us a few years ago that you could have this quality of camera, with HD streaming, motion detection, two-way audio and live streaming to your phone for just $120, we'd have been amazed.

If this camera fits your needs and its limitations are not important for what you need to use it for, then do it, get it. The Argus 2 is a solid piece of hardware.

But then we've been testing out a lot of new smart home technology and have become distinctly grumpy about it all. ®


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